Batman/Doc Savage Special #1 operates, in many ways, as a preview, an attention-getter, for the upcoming launch of DC’s “First Wave” project in March of 2010. Written by Brian Azzarello, with Phil Noto on art, this issue introduces lasting pulp icon Doc Savage to the DC Universe as he comes to Gotham to investigate and possibly apprehend the brand spankin’ new vigilante known only as the Batman. The series as a whole will use a number of famous pulp heroes, from Doc Savage to the Spirit and beyond, to recast DC’s early days as a dark adventure for a world heading into the unknown.
Azzarello’s writing on this issue is largely solid. There are a few slip-ups that some may find irritating – such as a confrontation between Batman and Doc Savage in which Bruce’s narration continually insists that he has just one more chance, which is followed by his last chance, which is followed by another assurance that he still has a chance left – but for the most part, Azzarello does a stellar job introducing us both to the less assured, riskier young Batman and the celebrated renaissance man, Doc Savage. The characters are distinct and interesting, though the issue’s plotting is nearly nonexistent and it does little to suggest solid supporting casts.
Noto’s art is similarly plagued with minor problems, as the issue is filled with relatively stiff fight scenes and a strange propensity to always make it look as though Batman is smiling, regardless of whether or not it’s appropriate to the scene at hand. Despite those flaws, however, he also does a fine job, giving the book a notable, memorable style that stays largely consistent throughout. The book has plenty of memorable images, thanks largely to Noto’s design and coloring.
Batman/Doc Savage Special #1 definitely reads like a prologue, and a pricey one at that. But it also serves as a rock-solid introduction into exactly what Azzarello has planned come next year as he lays down plot threads that can take our heroes all over the place. A brash young Batman is a particularly nice addition to the team as the character’s return to his roots (and his guns) will have some modern fans shaking their heads, but will leave plenty delighted to see the little-discussed rookie-years of the character. Azzarello does a great job distinguishing rich-boy crime-fighting genius know-it-all with a military-trained butler Doc Savage from the remarkably similar Bruce Wayne, and making both characters interesting in their own right. It definitely left me looking forward to the next step of the project, and regretting the long wait.
– Cal Cleary